This Sucker Packs A Real Punch!

22 Mar , 2011,
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Sucker Punch - Poster Art

Put five beautiful lasses in leather and latex, arm them to the teeth with two tons of firepower, sic them on a horde of movie mash up monsters, and you’ve got Zack Snyder’s winning formula for a geek wet dream.

I’m talking about Sucker Punch, people, and thanks to the awesome folks at Movie Mania, I was able to get my mitts on a pair of tix to the gala screening tonight.

Sucker Punch combines the best elements of action and pulp fantasy.

It’s the tale of Babydoll, a young girl wrongfully incarcerated in a mental asylum by her abusive stepfather, whose only recourse from her cruel and unusual fate is to retreat deep into her imagination, where she finds the inspiration, and courage to plan a bold escape before she gets lobotomized.

Aided by four other girls – the spunky Rocket, earnest Amber, crafty Blondie, and Sweet Pea, who serves as the voice of reason, they attempt a bold plan to steal four items from their captors – a map, fire,  a knife, and a key, which when used together, would set them free.

Perception vs. Reality much?

From the get go, you know that Sucker Punch is gonna be a movie with style.

The curtains go up to a very apt rendition of Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams and a montage that makes bleak and gothic blanch a shade or three.  As we transit into the asylum, we get a healthy dose of foreshadowing – Snyder puts all the elements of the quest on the table in the first 20 or so minutes, and then begins to play God with diagetic reality.

The world peels away in layers – the asylum bleeds into a bordello, and then into a crazy, mashed up and war torn landscape. It’s a transition that’s almost seamless, always underscored by thematic music, and as danger in the real world mounts, Snyder ups the ante in the virtual world, with increasingly complex missions and monsters to face.

In fact, the music and sound engineering is amazing. Top-notch, even. All too often, Hollywood movies focus on the graphical element, and forget to touch on the aural, but Sucker Punch manages, above all else, to not only play it up, but to play it flawlessly.

I got my tix! XD

The world of mash ups is one spanking homage to pop culture after another – there’s giant samurai zombies wielding oversized swords, undead nazis in trenchcoats and gas masks, orcs and armored knights, an aerial dogfight between a dragon and a B-52, and mirror faced goons that look like they popped outta Terminator.

The choreography, camera angles, and CG effects are done tastefully. I didn’t mind the flagrant use of bullet time, slow motion, POV shots, and all the usual tricks in the book. Snyder didn’t shy from using such conventional elements, and they worked. Rather well.

Furthermore, there’s a distinctly surreal quality to Sucker Punch (lending even more weight to the whole imaginary element).

Sucker Punch is almost akin to Alice’s adventures  in a steampunk Wonderland, except Wonderland’s way, way darker and grittier now.

The action is violent and visceral, yet there’s not a single drop of blood on screen, and while the visuals aren’t entirely Dali-esque in the whole melting clocks sort of way, it’s chock full of dream imagery, and the effects just work. Check out the nuked out shell of the Sagrada Familia, and the vorpal bunny, and you’ll know what I mean.

I’ve been singing nothing but praises for Sucker Punch, but one flaw did stand out to my writer’s sensibilities.

It’s a film marred by weak characterization, and the clever premise of imaginary worlds stacked like an onion actually detracted from the storytelling component. The too seamless blending of the real and the virtual blurred the lines too closely, making it hard to get a glimpse of the  girls beyond what is obvious and apparent on screen.

Movie Mania's peeps (and Joey) hamming it up for the day. XD

I would have liked to explore the backstory of the supporting cast a little more, instead of just listening to one liners about how they ran away from home (or worse, nothing at all).

The twist ending, too, seemed a bit rushed. Rather than ending on an Inception moment, it felt like a bit of a cop out, and that didn’t sit well with me.

Still, this film’s deserving of at least a 4 out of 5.

It’s a geek’s guiltiest pleasure, and if you’re a pop culture fan, you will definitely not be prepared for just how many tropes and genre conventions Snyder’s managed to cram into this movie.

And as for the girls on the set, hey, they can punch my lights out anytime. XD

Sucker Punch opens in theatres this Thursday, 24 March, 2011.